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Tonya Boyd is the FDNY’s 1st Black Female Deputy Chief

HISTORIC: Tonya Boyd (Photo credit: FDNY)

AN EMS captain with 21 years of experience became the first African-American woman in the Fire Department of New York to achieve the rank of deputy chief, NY Daily News reports.

In an article by writer Ginger Adams Otis, she told the story of Capt. Tonya Boyd, who joined the FDNY’s Emergency Medical Services while in college as a way to make money.

Boyd said she never dreamed her career would reach such heights. “I’m so excited and I am so blessed,” the EMS officer told the Daily News. “After hearing about the promotion, I couldn’t believe it. I feel like I’ve knocked down a door and opened it for a lot of EMTs just starting on this job,” said Boyd.

“African-American women will see someone who looks like them as a deputy chief and they will know more is possible — their careers won’t top out at paramedic or even lieutenant,” said the captain of Station 39 in Brooklyn.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro commented that Boyd’s success was due to her efforts. “Tonya is not only helping to raise the bar for our ability to provide pre-hospital care, she’s also demonstrating to young women of all backgrounds the incredible rewarding career they can achieve in the FDNY,” Nigro said.

Boyd grew up in Brooklyn and had plans to follow in her grandmother's footsteps and go into nursing. However, a need for cash whilst in nursing school lead her to look for work when a cousin suggested she get an EMT license.

Thanks to classes offered at Brooklyn College, Boyd passed the state exam. On Jan. 27, 1997, she became an official employee of the FDNY.

It was just after then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani merged the city’s cash-strapped 911 EMS system with the Fire Department — a joining that not everyone in the FDNY embraced.“We were very merger-oriented,” Boyd recalled. “We got through it.” She quickly set her sights on the next challenge — becoming a paramedic. “The FDNY offered a wonderful program that let us go to school from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Boyd said. “I became a paramedic after about seven years.”

Boyd’s promotion — the first time in more than 150 years the FDNY now has an African-American woman as a deputy chief — and she is the highest-ranking black woman in the entire department, said Regina Wilson, an FDNY firefighter and head of the Vulcan Society, a fraternal organization of African-American fire department employees.

“It’s a proud moment for the department to have a woman of color reach such a rank and we hope there will be many more to follow,” the Brooklyn firefighter said.

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